Lectionary Year A
September 15, 2002
Matthew 18:21-35

Hermeneutical Bridge


Used by permission from Lectionary Tales for the Pulpit by Merle G. Franke.

Even Junkyard Dogs Need Forgiveness

      "You want to know how mean a junkyard dog is? Well, just go by old man Jansen's house some day and try to say something to him. You'll find out how mean a junkyard dog is!" Two high school kids were approaching the street where old man Jansen lived. He was a recluse, living in an ancient house that apparently hadn't had much attention for as long as anyone could remember.

      Jansen was somewhat handicapped by an accident that had occurred long years before, with the result that he wasn't able to work. Hence he lived on his monthly Social Security checks, and stayed as much to himself as he possibly could. His mean spirit had the effect through the years of isolating him from the small town where he had lived for most of his 75 years.

      The interruption in his lonely and hostile life came when Maud bought the house right across the empty lot from him. Maud was a sprightly widow who had made up her mind to retire in this community, and when she bought her retirement house she knew nothing about old man Jansen. But she soon found out.

      Soon after she moved in she walked innocently and naively across the empty lot that separated their houses and tried to introduce herself to Jansen. What she got was a flurry of cuss words that just about scorched her ears. As she retreated to her house, she said to herself that he must have had a bad hair day. Everyone has a right to feel badly once in a while, she rationalized.

      So the next morning she tried again. As she finished mowing her lawn, she noticed that old man Jansen's lawn was overdue for a haircut, so she called to him and volunteered to cut his grass. Wrong approach, Maud. He thundered a volley of cuss words after her, indicating that he didn't need any of her blankety-blank help, and she could stay in her own yard is she knew what was good for her.

      Maud shrugged. She was not easily dissuaded. "He's got a burr under his saddle," she thought as she again retreated to her house. Later in the same day as she was doing some baking, she thought, "Aha! I'll bet he couldn't resist one of my apple pies!" So since she had the oven heated for other goodies, she baked a couple of her special recipe apple pies. Later in the day she walked across the empty lot. She noticed that Jansen wasn't at his usual sentry post on the porch, so she left the pie on the wide porch railing. "That'll warm him up," she thought to herself.

      What it did was heat him up. When he came out a few minutes later and saw the pie, he smacked it with his cane and sent it flying into the weeds. "Damned woman! Why doesn't she mind her own business?" he fumed.

      Meanwhile the neighbors, who had known old man Jansen and his notorious hostility for years, couldn't understand Maud. "She'll never change the guy," they shrugged.

      Maud calmly accepted one rebuff after another. As she sat at her kitchen table contemplating him, she said to herself, "One of these days he'll come around. He must be hurting something terrible."

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